Thursday, February 15, 2007

Work Wardrobe

"I am a fresh graduate and I just landed my first job as an Assistant Product Manager in a multinational company. Our company is still one of those with a “business attire” dress code. Can you help me put together my office wardrobe without going broke?”
-- Yippee Yuppie, San Juan

First, congratulations on getting out of the unemployment line and for getting what seems like a good job! Way to go!

Let me guess, the only other time you probably had to wear something that resembles corporate attire was when you had to do your marketing plan presentation or your thesis defense, right? And, you likely borrowed your Dad’s tie and wore it over a plain white or blue long-sleeved polo, loosely tucked in a pair of pleated black cotton pants. No, I’m not psychic. It’s just what I see every year, over the past 8 years, of sitting in as part of the panel of judges for students’ final marketing presentations.

In answering your question, I will propose that you treat your clothes as an investment rather than as an expense. With this outlook, you will want to get the best value for your money vs. just looking for cheap --which results in bigger expenses over time, since you will likely need to repair or replace them much faster than good quality items.

You don’t have to buy everything in one go. Gradually build up your wardrobe and favor classic styles (e.g. solid colored and vertical striped shirts) vs. those that are trendy (e.g. diagonal stripes) to minimize the need to update your clothes.

So how do you balance good quality with great value? Rediscover tailor-made clothes! Find yourself a good tailor with reasonable rates.

The cost of tailored clothes can even go lower if you take some effort to buy your own fabric in iconic Divisoria or Kamuning. Why not just buy off the rack? Well, if you look around you will see that most good-quality retail shirts don’t sell below P 1,300.00 and pants will likely fall within the P 1,500 to P 2,000 range. Consider too that you will likely spend additional money having them altered to fit you better.

Now for your wardrobe mix, here’s what I recommend for a typical 5-day work week:

TOP - Start with 3 long-sleeved polo shirts. Since you probably already have a white long-sleeved shirt, pick another solid colored shirt (maybe light lavender, if you already have blue), one striped and one checkered shirt. With your next paycheck, have 2 white short-sleeved linen (a.k.a. “gusot mayaman”) barongs made. Having this kind of mix will allow you to space your clothes in such a way that people don’t remember when you repeat a shirt.

TIE – Since most good-quality ties won’t go below P 500.00, maybe buy one tie a month until you have at least 5 ties in your arsenal. Again, pick tie patterns that are less trendy, like stripes and solids, so they last you for years. Tip: I built my tie inventory by asking family and close friends to give ties to me on my birthdays or Christmas.

PANTS – Since you will likely already have a pair of black pants, add another 3 pairs – gray, navy blue and brown. These colors are neutral and versatile enough to pair with any of the tops described above and with either black or brown shoes. Look for polyester blend material so you don’t have to spend extra on dry-cleaning.

Accessories? Get regularized first, and then write me again.

Smashing On Court

“I’m a little late getting into the badminton craze. One thing I noticed is that most people seem to spend some time (and money) on making sure they are well put-together on the court. What should I wear to blend in?”
-- Rookie, Pasig City

The objective in any sport is to win, right? So, don’t be a total LOSER by spending a ton of money on your gear and outfit before you even learn to play the sport decently. The next time you play badminton, watch how the people you describe to be too “well put-together” play and, chances are, they suck big time! So, advice #1 is to first learn the basics of the game before you spend most of your time wanting to look like badminton’s Andre Agassi -- Nathan Robertson. Now, assuming you can already hit that shuttlecock without raising one leg while pursing your lips, here are a few helpful tips in putting together your badminton attire.


There are two things to consider in dressing for badminton: comfort and movement.

Most badminton courts are virtual gas chambers. The wind is the shuttlecock’s worst enemy, so most courts are designed to keep it out. And, this means it’s hot hot hot! So, dress light. For your shirt, opt for those made with Dri-fit material to keep your sweat away from your body during play. Light cotton shirts also work well. Oh, and please make sure you bring at least 2 change shirts so you don’t end up looking like you played under the rain.

Badminton, as you probably already know, is a sport that demands a lot of agility and quick reflexes; so what you wear should allow for flexibility and sudden movements. Your shirt should not fit too tight so you can move with ease. Wear shorts that are slightly above the knees in length to allow you to stretch and gather momentum for those jump smashes. Reserve your oversized or baggy shorts for basketball. These types of shorts cover your knees, making it difficult to lunge and go for those drop shots. Under no circumstance should you show up in cycling shorts! This does not need explaining.


No-show, ankle high socks (a.k.a. peds) are best. They not only keep your legs much cooler vs. wearing those shin-high crew sports socks, they also
do not make you look like you’re turning 40 soon.


Probably the next most important gear after a decent racket is your pair of badminton shoes. Ever since badminton grew in popularity, there are now more cool-looking indoor court shoes, like Mizuno’s Wave Smash SR model, which is made with high grade rubber non-marking gum sole for great traction and stability on
Taraflex courts. And, this shoe cares for your feet too by giving the right level of cushioning and leaving them cool and dry during play.

It is also important that you bring a pair of slippers or an extra pair of rubber shoes to change to after your game because wearing your badminton shoes outside the court will damage their rubber gum soles.

Combine looking good and playing well and badminton can change your life. It got me a wife!

Grooming the Groom

"I am engaged to be married this September. My wife is, of course, going to wear a designer gown and I can’t wait to see her looking her best and being the envy of all the single guys on our big day. I am partial to wearing a barong but I want to stand out too! How do I not get drowned in the sea of barongs? Your suggestion would be helpful."
-- Well Groomed, Quezon City

It’s good to know that you belong to the new breed of grooms, where it seems that you are as involved in and excited about your wedding as your fiancé. It used to be that the guy’s role in wedding planning was just to write the check and show up on that faithful day. Having worked with many groom-to-be’s over the years I’ve noticed this fascinating and welcome evolution of how men are now as into looking their best for their weddings as their future brides are. I suppose this all happened when men discovered the importance of moisturizers, spa treatments and planning their wardrobes. Thank you, David Beckham.

Now to your question on how to be a stand-out, barong-wearing groom... let me just get this out of the way – DO NOT wear a colored barong! Your bride may look like she’s getting married to a member of the choir.

The elegance of your barong depends on two critical elements -- fabric and style.

As the groom you should opt for an intricately embroidered pure piña or piña silk barong fabric. There are fabric suppliers that can customize the embroidery to add to the uniqueness of your fabric. Piña and piña-silk fabrics would set you back anywhere from P 4,000 to P 8,000 depending on the embroidery.

Have your and your groomsmen’s barongs made by one tailor so you can have a hand in choosing the type of fabric and style your groomsmen’s barong will have. They should typically be less expensive than yours. For example, if you are using piña-silk your groomsmen can choose to use piña-jusi blend or plain jusi fabric.

On style, don’t be afraid to play around with the collar, cuffs and buttons. Regardless of the collar, I personally favor French cuffs, where your buttons match the cufflinks you will use on your cuffs.

A Mandarin Barong Tagalog is also a stylish way to be different.

Many forget that a wedding is the Groom’s day too. And, oftentimes, the Groom needs to be reminded that the old practice of leaving wedding preparations to the bride-to-be and just showing up on the day itself died with the double-breasted suit.

Traveling for Business - What to Wear

A question I've been frequently asked is what do I wear and pack for a short business trip?

Here’s a good principle that’s helped me plan my wardrobe whenever I travel: “Always dress for arrival, not departure.” If you remember that, then everything else follows. Let’s break this down into the two “E’s” to consider when traveling – Event and Environment.

Since you mentioned you were going on a business trip take some time to find out what the prescribed business attire is in the country you are going to. Do they wear suits or just a shirt and tie? Save on ironing cost and time by bringing long-sleeved shirts made of wrinkle-resistant material. Marks & Spencer has a lot of these. If you’re bringing a suit, choose a black one for daytime and night time versatility.

While in transit, I like to wear a suit jacket paired with jeans. This outfit gives me the comfort and style of the modern businessman. It also gets you better attention from flight attendants and airport personnel. On the practical side, wearing the suit jacket saves me the problem of not crumpling it in my suitcase.

It’s also good to be ready with one set of formal attire (black tie and a white dress shirt) in case your host decides to take you out to a fancy dinner or a dressy event.

On shoes, I tend to bring only two pairs. I wear a pair of rubber-soled loafers during the trip and for going around, and pack one pair of dressier lace-up shoes for business meetings and evening socials. If you’re the type that hits the hotel gym during your free time, then bring a pair of rubber shoes; they’re light anyway. You won’t need slippers since most reputable hotels give their guests a complimentary pair.


Check the weather of the country you are going to. You will need to make room in your luggage for a sweater or a jacket if you’re going to countries with <20oC temperature. If you are going to a very hot country like India or the Middle East, where I hear it is 40oC under the shade, bring clothes made of light material like linen and cotton. Good luck with ironing though.

And finally, I feel I need to touch on what NOT to wear during your trip, while in transit: faded denim jacket (unless you want to be stopped and interrogated to no end), flip flops and shorts (unless the plane you are taking has sand) and clothes with the brand screaming as part of the design (the surest way NOT to get a seat upgrade).